Venue: KLCC Park, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Date: 23rd March 2013
Promoter: Jojo Events
Review by: Sheryl C.
Special Thanks: Melissa, and the TTA team
Photos by Aidil R.
Something is up this weekend in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. Many are blaming the heat and the humid aftermath our tropical thunderstorms were bringing but I knew better – it’s the encroaching intoxication of pure unadulterated … pop.
With the majestic PETRONAS Twin Towers serving as the evening’s backdrop, Twin Towers @Live returns for the third time with an impressive lineup – a mixture consisting some of the finest local and global music acts. The evening’s concert kicked out with Dem Lepak Boyz and Caprice – they really got the crowd moving with their beats – and KL Drumline put on a bangin’ show with some pretty impressive coordinated drum moves. I could hear some folks whispering in awe at Shawn Lee’s beatboxing maneuvers but personally, a stand out experience was the sing-a-long moment when One Nation Emcees came out and performed their “Anak Kampung” hit. Who knew East Malaysian Jimmy Palikat (who featured on that song) had such smooth joget moves? And as usual, our Mizz Nina and her dancers really brought it home with her massive dance hit “What You Waiting For” and latest single with Korean popstar Jay Park, “Around The World”.
By now, I was fully warmed up and ready to go and I could tell that the crowd was already teetering at the brink of K-pop madness. Why K-pop? Because one of K-pop’s biggest imports, superstar girl group 2NE1 was due on stage in a few minutes and you could literally feel the headiness from the enthusiastic fan chants. Debuting in 2009, these four girls have taken the K-pop world by storm with their hip-hop/dance-laced pop music and fierce, edgy fashion. The chants finally reached a deafening crescendo when CL, Park Bom, Dara, and Minzy bursted onto stage with their debut hit single “Fire”.
Hooking the crowd with an infectious repeat of “Ay” at the chorus and a catchy hand-swinging dance move to boot, it was not difficult at all to be completely caught up with the K-pop frenzy. Keeping the energy high, 2NE1 followed “Fire” with the dance-pop track “Can’t Nobody”. The girls later slowed it down with “Lonely”, and connected with the fans through a short interview session.
Having just landed barely two hours earlier, they had no time to attend the press conference and therefore spent a moment on stage to let fans know that not only were they dropping a new album some time this year but also that they were keen to come back to Malaysia, if the Blackjacks (2NE1’s official fanclub name) will have them. The roar of approval heard from my end tells me that fans are going to keep 2NE1 to their end of that promise.
The girls then got the crowd dancing to “Ugly” and their latest hit “I Love You” before closing out their stage with the rousing anthem-of-a-song “I’m The Best”. 2NE1, lead by the gorgeous CL, even got the whole crowd chanting “I’m The Best” in Korean at the beginning of the song, pure testament to the charismatic stage presence of this girl group. By the end of that miniature Korean lesson, I’m pretty sure there were a few new K-pop converts in the crowd.
Here I am all spent from the K-pop madness 2NE1 brought, thinking I had little left to offer. After all, the main act – the Backstreet Boys – were middle aged balladeers from the bygone era of 90s pop music and I could just whip out my glow stick and chill alongside their crooning. Boy, was I wrong. Sure, I was prepared for K-pop madness (Gangnam Style prepared the whole damn world for K-pop madness) but nothing prepared me for the meltdown I never thought I would experience at my age: pop nostalgia madness. It is the same madness that drives your parents to shell out hundreds for Bee Gee tickets and mine to sing out loud in public to Abba songs lyric by lyric despite not being able to recall their own IC number at times.
The Backstreet Boys have technically worn out the term ‘boys’ quite a few years ago – having debuted in 1993, this year they are celebrating their 20 years together as a boy band. The incessant screaming from the fan girls on my left and right who looked like working professionals and mothers just goes to show that the time between those 20 years were nothing: fandom never ages, nor does it die.
At this point, pop nostalgia had yet to hit me and I noted with detached approval the live band the boys flew in to accompany them on this stage. Kicking it off with “Incomplete” and then launching into an almost medley-like rendition of their fast hits “Larger Than Life”, “We’ve Got It Goin’ On” and “Get Down”, the pop nostalgia was already building up underneath my subconscious. I should have known that the quirky ‘Gangnam Style’ mash-up they did in between that medley was a prophetic sign of the bubbling madness that was to come. But I was still in denial, restraining myself with increasing difficulty as I continued my polite toe-tapping, convincing myself that it was my appreciation of the live band which completely elevated the sound. Then they had to go and sing “Quit Playing Games With My Heart”. And with the ‘Nanana’ refrain, all hell broke loose; all pseudo-hipster pretentiousness was completely blasted to smithereens.
Have you ever sang ‘Nanana’ to a stranger in public before? Go to a BSB concert. Have you ever seen a Hipster boy wave a glow stick and tear up while singing to “As Long As You Love Me”? Go to a BSB concert because the one beside me almost did and I’m pretty sure one somewhere in the crowd hiding under his un-hipster grey hoodie did. It was the strangest thing – with every song, my memory prowess began unveiling with each passing lyric. And with that, the weirdest feeling – I felt I was being transported back in time. With every word sung from “All I Have To Give” (and I shockingly knew every word), I felt like I was that teenybopper again. We were all teenyboppers again – the mother of a 7 year old on my right, the Singaporean professional who came down to celebrate her 17 years of love for A.J. McLean in front of me, the hipster boy on my left – we were all set adrift on memory bliss (pun intended though they did not sing that song).
And this was by no accident or fluke. The boys – Kevin Richardson, Brian Littrel, Howie Dorough, A.J. McLean, Nick Carter – really brought out the big guns (have I mentioned they brought in a live band?) and took their fans back in time. Despite a less than stellar sound system and Brian Littrell’s voice being slightly under the weather, their energy could have shamed younger pop acts and their effortless stage presence showed how 20 years of experience have only made them more comfortable as a group and tighter performance-wise. It was obvious the boys were not only enjoying the crowd but each other’s presence with this marking Kevin Richardson’s return to the band on an international stage since his departure in 2006. At every point of their whole set the boys did not fail to engage the fans, singing not to them but with them. They serenaded four lucky ladies during “I’ll Never Break Your Heart” and even shared their spotlight with one of them as she belted out the chorus halfway through. Reminding us of the magic that is BSB with their vocal harmonies and gracious gestures toward their fans on stage, I found myself apologetically singing out loud “Lookin’ back on the things I’ve done, I was tryin’ to be someone, I played my part, kept you in the dark, now let me show you the shape of my heart” to them (chorus of “Shape Of My Heart”). Ah, the power of pop. Even the grandfather next to me knew the lyrics of their next song – the boys did not need mics for the whole crowd chimed in throughout “I Want It That Way”.
And before any of us knew it, this blast to the past trip had come to an end. With the Backstreet Boys earlier assurance that they will be releasing a new album this summer and a world wide tour following after, it was befitting to end their stage with “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)”, allowing the fans to echo into the night and the universe beyond “Backstreet’s Back, ALRIGHT!” An impressive 17 songs set list later, with hoarse throats and tired feet the crowd disperses with a sense of bittersweetness. Yes, the music has ended and the fan chants have ceded but as I walk back to my car with my newfound BSB fellow fan mates, I don’t think I’ve completely returned from my youth in the 90s. Hearing the giggles and loud sing-a-longs ringing into the warm night somehow tells me that that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The lyrics of “Quit Playing Games With My Heart” swirl around in my head: “Sometimes I wish I could turn back time, impossible as it may seem, but I wish I could so bad, baby”.
Oh but tonight you did Backstreet Boys, you did.